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Amanda Ryan

The Last Hellion by Loretta Chase

She was not unaffected.  The devil in her, one she normally kept well concealed, was bound to be drawn to its counterpart in him.  But she was not a fool either.  She knew well enough that this was a rogue’s own countenance, and she could sum it up in one word: trouble.

Title: The Last Hellion

Author: Loretta Chase

Redonk Nutshell:

Official Synopsis: Vere Mallory, the Duke of Ainswood, has everything–he’s titled, he’s rich, he’s devastatingly good looking–and he seems determined to throw it all away. Disreputable, reckless, and wild, the last of the Mallory hellions is racing headlong to self-destruction…until a mind numbingly beautiful blonde Amazon knocks him off his feet–literally. Lydia Grenville is dedicated to protecting London’s downtrodden. Dissolute noblemen like Ainswood are part of the problem, not the solution. She would like him to get his big, gorgeous carcass out of her way so that she can carry on with her work. The problem is, Ainswood can no more resist a challenge, especially in female form, than he can resist the trouble she seems to attract.

Oh man. Oh man oh man oh man. Gads, how I loved this book. It’s predecessor, Lord of Scoundrels is also a favorite of mine and me, in my infinite idiocy, didn’t realize these two books were even connected in any way whatsoever.  So imagine my surprise when I start to read this…and WHAM! I realize there are characters featured here and there that I’m familiar with, and have previously adored.

The Last Hellion is the story of the Duke of Ainswood and his unintended entanglement with journalist Lydia Grenville. They are both brash, insistently stubborn, and terribly notorious for getting into trouble.  In short, they’re perfect for each other.  Vere has spent the past several years wearing the facade of a mongering brute after inheriting the title of his family’s estate upon the death of his young cousin. Lydia is a successful and adventurous author who works to write about the lower classes, using her own experience having grown up in poorhouses and slums. These two collide in a hilarious encounter outside a pub, and both their lives are forever changed. After exchanging ripping taunts and sarcastic retorts, Lydia makes quite the impression upon the haughty Duke:

For one perilous moment, her mind gave way as her muscles did, overpowered by heat and strength and the chaotic brew of masculine scent and taste.  But her instincts had been honed in a hard school, and in the next moment she reacted.  She sagged in his arms, making herself a dead weight. She felt his mouth leave hers. “By gad, the wench’s faint–” She slammed her fist into his jaw.

This book had me laughing out loud, heartily and often.  The exchanges between these two go beyond comical.  Lydia is as haughty as Vere, though both in their own individual ways.  Watching them encounter one trial after another is nothing short of brilliant. The Last Hellion has quickly become a favorite go-to book of mine, along with it’s sibling Lord of Scoundrels.

“If you try to find a replacement, you’ll be sadly disappointed, I can’t be replaced. I’m the only man in all the world who possesses the right combination of qualities for you.You can turn your Ballister stare upon me all you like, but you can’t petrify me. You can knock me about to your heart’s content without worrying about doing any damage. You can perpetrate any sort of outrage your wicked mind conceives and be sure I’ll join in, with a will. You’re a troublemaker, Lydia. A Ballister devil. Nothing less than a Mallory hellion would ever suit you.” – Vere Mallory -”

Rating: A

Romance: 4/5            Raunch: 3/5

Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas

Title: Suddenly You

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Redonk Nutshell: Novelist gets more than she bargained for when she hires a professional to take her virginity

Official Synopsis: She was unmarried, untouched and almost thirty, but novelist Amanda Briars wasn’t about to greet her next birthday without making love to a man. When he appeared at her door, she believed he was her gift to herself, hired for one night of passion. Unforgettably handsome, irresistibly virile, he tempted her in ways she never thought possible…but something stopped him from completely fulfilling her dream.  Jack Devlin’s determination to possess Amanda became greater when she discovered his true identity. But gently-bred Amanda craved respectability more than she admitted, while Jack, the cast-off son of a nobleman and London’s most notorious businessman, refused to live by society’s rules. Yet when fate conspired for them to marry, their worlds collided with a passionate force neither had expected…but both soon craved.

I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this book.  A successful, independent woman decides to treat herself for her 30th birthday and hire a trained professional to take her virginity.  I mean, c’mon.  That sounds like an interesting story.  Especially because you know that some serious sh*t is likely going to hit the fan in one way or another, and I, for one, have no issues admitting I’d want a front seat ticket to that show.

Lis Kleypas’s books have been hit or miss for me.  I found Suddenly You at my local Salvation Army store on 1/2 off Wednesday.  Score one for Ryan. I started this book in the evening and finished it about 24 hours later. It was one of “those” reads, where you’re intrigued about your characters and just really, really NEEDTOKNOW what happens next.

Amanda Briars is an insanely successful author.  The only thing she’s felt lacking in her life is…er…well…sex. She’s about to turn thirty and she’s tired of lacking the experience of making love.  So what is a well-off, successful woman to do but to take matters into her own hands and visit a local Matron.  On Amanda’s birthday, she’s greeted by a handsome and charming man at her door.  The problem, however, is that by this time Amanda’s blood has returned to her brain and she’s changed her mind.  Jack, her visitor, charms his way into her home and talks his way into her arms, but leaves her before things go too far.  She’s both grateful and irritated by his abrupt departure.  Amanda’s irritation soon blooms into full blown anger when she learns that Jack is in fact Jack Devlin, a notorious publisher seeking to gain Amanda’s works.  Thus, their future and unavoidable collisions begin to snowball into something deeper and romantic.

Suddenly You was a lovely treat.  It was on the raunchier end of Kleypas’s scale (I approve), but not, by far, as raunchy as it could (should even?) have been.  I enjoyed watching both Amanda and Jack collide – there’s really no other way to explain it.  Their relationship evolves enticingly against their better wishes, and watching them struggle and ultimately accept their fates was fun.  I very much liked Jack.  He’s a tough business man, a self-made man who holds himself in high regard but yet retains a degree of humility.

All in all, I very much enjoyed Suddenly You by Lisa Kleypas.  Though following your standard romance formula, it’s worth picking up to read pool side or at the beach.

Rating: B-

Romance: 3/5     Raunch: 3.5/5

Before the Scandal by Suzanne Enoch

Title: Before the Scandal (The Notorious Gentlemen #2)

Author: Suzanne Enoch

Redonk Nutshell: Black sheep brother returns home to help his family and enlists the help of his childhood crush

Official Synopsis: Colonel Phineas Bromley is a legend—on the battlefield and in the bedroom. Though he’s won many wars, and even more hearts, nothing could prepare him for his new life. When Phin discovers that someone has been pushing his family toward ruin, he assumes the role of a legendary highwayman. Riding out in the middle of the night, hidden behind a mask, Phin heads straight into trouble . . . and into the arms of the ravishing girl next door. Coming face-to-face with a masked man did not frighten Alyse Donnelly as it should have. Instead, she finds him rather dashing. But her foolish heart has led her into trouble before, and helping a fugitive may mean jeopardizing her own plans, no matter how enticing his kisses. Now, as the danger grows, Alyse must make a choice between freedom . . . and the chance for true love.

This was my first Suzanne Enoch book.  I was looking forward to reading it, if only because I’ve seen MANY of her books along my travels in RomSmut land. I actually picked this book up at Goodwill for $0.49. GO ME!

Overall, Before the Scandal was a fun, fast-paced read. Our hero, Phin, returns home after a ten-year hiatus, a self-imposed exile after a horrific Phin-induced accident leaves his brother crippled. He left a gambler, womanizer, and drinker and returns as an accomplished war veteran.  He makes the trip home after receiving a letter from his sister begging him to return.  He finds the family estate in a struggling state, as well as his relationships with his siblings.  When he figures out that someone has been terrorizing tenant estates and vandalizing the property, Phin sets out to figure out who and why.  In the process, he comes face to face with Alyse, his boyhood friend.  They’re instantly pulled to one another, but they each wrestle with their own emotional baggage.  Phin is still making amends for his past behavior and decisions, and Alyse is still paying for an ill-conceived elopement-gone-awry.

What really held my attention to this story was the sort of who-dunnit theme running rampant around and through our main characters.  It’s fairly obvious to the reader who our villain(s) is/are, but what is really intriguing is watching how our hero and heroine go about handling it.  Enoch’s character are multifaceted and fascinating.

Before the Scandal was a fun read, chock full of romance and suspense.  It was a nice, fluffy, and safe story.

Rating: C+

Romance: 4/5             Raunch: 2/5

My Unfair Lady by Kathryne Kennedy

“I’ll be right across the hall if you should need anything,” he managed to say. Her head bowed, he heard the rip of cloth…he tried, one more time, to close the door.  Summer spun, her hair flipping over her shoulders and cascading across her breasts, her hands at her hips, her legs splayed wide in her high-heeled boots, making her nakedness somehow even more exciting.

If it weren’t for those bloody boots he might’ve had a chance.

Her chin tilted. “DON’T YOU DARE LEAVE ME.” A demand. His brow lifted, and he quirked a grin. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”


Title: My Unfair Lady

Author: Kathryne Kennedy

Redonk Nutshell: American heiress seeks help from uptight Duke on being presented to the Queen

Official Synopsis: The impoverished Duke of Monchester despises the rich Americans who flock to London, seeking to buy their way into the ranks of the British peerage. So when railroad heiress Summer Wine Lee offers him a king’s ransom if he’ll teach her to become a proper lady, he’s prepared to rebuff her. But when he meets the petite beauty with the knife in her boot, it’s not her fortune he finds impossible to resist.  Frontier-bred Summer Wine Lee has no interest in winning over London society—it’s the New York bluebloods and her future mother-in-law she’s determined to impress. She knows the cost of smoothing her rough-and-tumble frontier edges will be high. But she never imagined it might cost her heart…

Kathryne Kennedy is a favorite author of mine.  She has a wonderful imagination, and often times her characters are witty, intelligent, and brilliantly sensual.  My Unfair Lady is one of my favorites, a book I’ve read many times and have enjoyed each time with a wide, idiotic grin on my face.

You can’t help but like Summer Wine Lee, the knife-totting, smart mouthed, and beautiful American heiress who wants nothing more than to win over her “sort of” fiancé’s hoity-toity family.  She travels to London with her companions, one human and one runt of a dog, in order to make over herself.  She solicits the help of a Duke, the impoverished yet popular Duke of Monchester.

Byron is a cynical man, a man who has made his living whispering into the ear of the Prince.  He is startled and skeptical of Summer’s proposition to help her enter into London society, but he accepts, if only because he’s morbidly curious.

They begin the arduous journey of smoothing and buffing her out and in the process they become friends.  When strange accidents begin occurring around Byron, both he and Summer wonder if someone has it out for him, and why.  Their initial goal becomes more complicated as they encounter one disaster after another, and then, of course, they end up falling for each other.

My Unfair Lady is a play on My Fair Lady/Pygmalion, the story of a man taking a coarse woman under his wing in order to sophisticate and tame her.  In the process, he ends up losing a bit of himself to her innate charms, and they fall in love.  Summer’s “coarse” behavior is a result of her being raised in a Frontier town, though she’s far from barbaric.   She ends up domesticating Byron back into the world of compassion.  It’s really very lovely.  This story had me giggling out loud and smiling.

I’d highly recommend giving Kathryn Kennedy a go.

Rating: B+

Romance: 4/5           Raunch: 3.5/5

Seven Nights to Forever, Evangeline Collins

Title: Seven Nights to Forever

Author: Evangeline Collins

Redonk Nutshell: Courtesan falls in love with her downtrodden client

Official Synopsis: Some sacrifices are more difficult than others. Left destitute after her father’s death, Rose Marlowe has debts to settle and a younger brother to support. But she also possesses an unmatched beauty-one that could command quite a price…Now, every month, Rose secretly travels from her country home to spend one week at a decadent London brothel, where she’s become a sought-after prize. Elegant and accomplished in the art of pleasure, she spends her nights fulfilling the fantasies of the gentlemen of the ton while denying the wish buried deep in her heart. Then one night a wealthy merchant gentleman walks through her door. Handsome, kind and compassionate, with a lonely soul that matches her own, James Archer is not her usual client. Falling in love with a client, never mind a married one, is unthinkable. Yet Rose can’t help but lose herself in his arms as one night becomes seven-and seven nights lead to a chance at forever…

Rose Marlowe is a woman on a mission – she wants her brother to have everything their father promised him.  The catch, however, is that their father left them destitute.  Rose takes matters into her own hands by becoming…what else…a prostitute.  She makes her own rules: she’s only available one week per month, and her price is absurdly high.  She becomes a hot commodity, and is highly sought after.  She manages to pay off her father’s debts and continues to support her brother’s lifestyle, all while keeping him in the dark about her profession.

Our story starts off with Rose making her monthly trip to London, a trip she’s come to loathe over her years in her service to her profession. We also meet James Archer, a low-born but high income married man, trapped in a loveless marriage that has held him prisoner for three years. He makes an effort to avoid his home life, but has refused to allow himself to stray from his marriage vows, a point that can’t be claimed by his spouse.  The day he finally succumbs to his loneliness and finds himself at a brothel is the day Rose comes to town.

And you can probably guess where this is going from here…

Seven Nights to Forever is a lovely, though predictably flawed, historical romance.  James is something of a doormat to his overbearing and ridiculously cruel wife.  The man is patient, calm, hard working, and, above all, a romantic at heart.  He wants companionship, passion, and attraction.  Emotionally, he falls quickly for Rose, who offers him everything his wife doesn’t.

Rose, on the other hand, isn’t quite sure what to make of James.  She battles with her own fears of the consequences of her choices.  She shoulders a serious martyr complex.  However, the chemistry between her and James is pretty intense.  They are exactly what they both need, though they, of course, are ignorant of the fact at the time.  We as the reader, are not.

Thus begins a somewhat predictable “courtship” between a courtesan and her client that toes the bounds between what is and isn’t acceptable.  It’s soft and sweet, sensual and dreamy.  When their time together comes to a close, you can’t keep your heart from breaking just a bit on their behalf.  Fear not, though, dear reader.  We eventually get our happy ending.

Seven Nights to Forever was a fun and fluffy read, one that would make a fantastic vacation book.  I don’t see myself reading it again, though I did enjoy it.

Rating: C+

Romance: 3/5                Raunch: 4/5

Shameless by Anne Stuart

Title: Shameless

Author: Anne Stuart

Redonk Nutshell: Hardened cynic teams up with roguish rake to take on an infamous secret society

Official Synopsis: A long string of tragic loves haunts Viscount Benedick Francis Alistair Rohan. Cool and cynical, he’s weary of life’s fickle games and wants a prim and proper wife he can ignore while indulging his sensual appetites. Lady Melisande Carstairs is nothing less than a tornado storming into Benedick’s measured life. Possessed of boundless energy and the soul of a reformer, Melisande always conquers, whether it’s saving the souls of soiled doves or seducing the man she’s inconveniently fallen for. When she informs Benedick that his brother’s newly revived Heavenly Host has graduated from simple carnal debauchery to sadistic violence, he’s compelled to investigate, undercover. Under those covers, however, is Melisande herself, playing a dangerous game in the name of justice. And the Heavenly Host has just seen her hand, and more…

Ah, Anne Stuart.  I love me some dark and dangerous romance.  The Rohan series, besides all of them having gloriously beautiful covers, are all dark, sensual, and toeing the edge of scandalous.  Anne Stuart is a master in redeeming the irredeemable hero.

Shameless is the story of Benedick, the older brother of Miranda of Breathless, and his encounter with Lady Melisande Carstairs.  Melisande is a widow, a woman who has taken it upon herself to offer a home to destitute working women.  She more or less runs a halfway house, but somewhat respectable.  Miranda runs into Benedick when she literally pulls one of her girls off of him.  Of course, Benedick is intrigued (once he gets over being irritated).  When stirrings of the rekindling of The Heavenly Host reach Melisande’s ears, and that the secret society’s practices have been bordering on grotestque, she reaches out to Benedick to see if he can’t help shut them down.  Benedick’s family are the forebears of the society, The Rohan family having achieved its scandalous reputation solely from The Heavenly Host’s activities.

The two team up, and in the process of investigating the society’s members they end up falling for each other.  Melisande is frigid and naive, an immediate lure to Benedick’s sensual and adventurous nature.  The chemistry between the two is instant and intense.

Shameless follows the same plot format as its predecessors and is a bit predictable.  Yet, for the love of a good dark hero and some seriously sensual intrigue, it’s worth picking it up regardless.  Anne Stuart remains a master, and Shameless is worth the read.

Rating: C+

Romance: 3/5                Raunch: 3/5

Guest Post: Mr. RaunchyRyan Explains Green Lantern

Today’s post is a guest post hosted by…wait for it…MR. RaunchyRyan!  That’s right, folks.  My husband is the bomb-shit-sha-bang and actually took time to chat about his love of all things Green Lantern.

RR: Welcome, baby! Thanks for doing this.

MRR: Do I have to make this all romantic and stuff?

RR: No. (shoots him an evil look)

MRR: *laughs to himself*

RR: So what’s the deal with Green Lantern?

MRR: Green Lantern has always been my favorite super hero, and I think I know why. In the end, here’s what the story of Green Lantern is all about: Human will and imagination are able to hold their own against the most powerful forces in the universe. If you can dream it up and have the will power to back it, everybody had better watch out.

RR: Let’s pretend I don’t know jack-crap about Green Lantern (MRR snorts at me). Can you give me a brief background?

MRR: Here’s what I consider the basics of Green Lantern. Hal Jordan is a hotshot test pilot for a private aeronautics corporation that builds fighter jets (like Boeing). Hal is full of himself and something of a jerk, which is why although I’m not a big fan of Ryan Reynolds I think he’s a great fit. One day an alien dude in a green outfit crash-lands on the test flight grounds and gets Hal Jordan’s attention. As he dies, the alien gives Hal a powerful green ring and names him the new Green Lantern and protector of Sector 2814. Hal has no idea what this means, but over time he comes to learn that the Green Lantern Corps is an intergalactic police force established by an ancient race known as the Guardians. They are small and blue, like menacing magical Smurfs. Long ago, they created a power battery out of what is called “the green element” (it’s a glowing green boulder). They choose individuals to become Green Lanterns. Each Lantern is given a ring, which allows them to create anything (made of green light) they can imagine and will into existence–green laser beams, green Winnebagos, green guns, green force fields, green safety nets, green x-ray scanners, whatever. (Once they stop imagining it, it disappears.) One downside is that every so often Green Lanterns have to return to the power battery to recharge their rings. The power battery is in the shape of a giant lantern, and is housed on the Guardian’s home world, Oa (“oh-uh”), at the center of the universe.

The Green Lanterns spend most of their time flying around the universe fighting crime and helping people, not unlike Batman. (Both Green Lantern and Batman are DC Comics characters.)

RR: Oo, I like Batman.

MRR: It’s not just about peace and justice, though. It’s about fighting evil head-on. Once in a while something huge goes down. For instance, the Parallax saga involves evil characters who focus on exploiting the Lanterns’ greatest weakness. If will and imagination are what give the Lanterns strength, it is fear that is that weakness, since it’s hard to maintain your resolve and to imagine good things when you’re crippled by fear. Just as will is symbolized by the color green, fear is symbolized by the color yellow, hence Parallax is yellow.

RR: Ok, so where does the new movie fall in the greater time line of Green Lantern?

MRR: The new movie tells the story of Hal Jordan becoming the first human Green Lantern, and how the Green Lantern Corps takes on Parallax. I’m excited to see how it all goes down.

RR: What draws you more to Green Lantern over any of the other DC guys?

MRR: The stories are the most sci-fi of all the major super heroes. (Superman comes from a far-away planet, but is there anyone more American than him?) In fact, in the Green Lantern world, the known universe is divided into 3,600 sectors, and each sector is assigned two Green Lanterns as protectors. So, there are many Green Lanterns, and almost all of them are non-human. Much of the action in the Green Lantern stories takes place in outer space.

RR: How does Green Lantern relate to other super heroes?

MRR: Earth’s Green Lantern (a role assumed not just by Hal Jordan but also by others later on) is part of the Justice League, the DC Comics equivalent of The Avengers. There have been various incarnations of the Justice League, but it almost always includes Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Flash, and Green Lantern. Flash and the Hal Jordan Green Lantern have similar personalities and are good friends, which led DC Comics to introduce John Stewart as a new Green Lantern to mix things up–he’s black and more bad-ass. Sometimes the Justice League includes a character named Green Arrow. The cool thing there is that although they share the whole green thing, there’s a lot of contract between Green Lantern and Green Arrow. Green Lantern is a law-and-order policeman, whereas Green Arrow is more of a live-and-let-live guy who stands up for the people instead of carrying out the will of any authority like the Guardians.

RR: What’s the coolest thing about Green Lantern?

MRR: His ring. The ring can literally make anything you can imagine. If I had one, I’d use it at the movies to send out a frequency that shut off all cell phones in the theater.  How would you use it?

RR: I have a vision of a super clean house, and all the chores being done without me having to get up off the couch or put down my book.  And mind you, I wouldn’t be holding my own book or turning my own pages.  Mah power would.  HA!

Green Lantern, starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard, opens today in theaters nationwide.

A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man by Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan

Title: A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man

Author(s): Celeste Bradley and Susan Donovan

Redonk Nutshell: Two stories, two time periods, expertly interwoven to make an amazing and deliciously romantic (and raunchy) read

Official Synopsis: Regency London’s most celebrated, the Blackbird, was a woman before her time—uninhibited, financially independent, and free to live by her own rules. Schooled in the sensual arts by the one man she loved the most, she recorded every wicked detail in her diaries…When Boston museum curator Piper Chase-Pierpont unearths the Blackbird’s steamy memoirs, she’s aroused and challenged by what she finds. Could the courtesan’s diaries be used as a modern girl’s guide to finding love and empowerment? One curious curator—one very lucky man—are about to find out…

I hadn’t heard jack-squat about this book when The Book Pimp sent me an email with the list of her most recent acquisitions for the library.  I’m honestly not even sure what made me decide to have her put this aside for me.  I mean, the title…it has some seriously potential cheese waves.  The cover is very pretty, but I had yet to lay my eyes on it so I had no way of knowing.

I picked up A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man after finishing Kate Noble’s Follow My Lead.  I was coming down of a good-book high and feeling happ, so I figured it’d be safe to pick up a book I knew very little about. From the first page, I was screwed.  And in a good way, a delicious way.  I was hooked.

It makes sense to me, now, how two authors wrote this book.  It’s the story of two women from two completely different time periods who wrestle with similar restrictions and desires.  Our modern day woman, Piper, stumbles upon secret diaries written by Ophelia Harrington, a staunch abolitionist and historical figure.  Literally.  She trips over the woman’s trunk and out stumble three volumes of old and unseen diaries from a false-bottom.  Ever the scientist and historian, Piper voraciously reads them up and discovers that Ophelia Harrington was, in fact, a celebrated courtesan in London before coming to America.

The novel artfully tangos between present and past, and we get to watch Piper go from sheltered and repressed museum curator to a woman empowered and full of bravery.  She takes it upon herself to embody Ophelia’s life mantra, literally taking the steps Ophelia took two hundred years earlier when she decided to become a courtesan rather then be “sold” into a marriage she had no say in.  Mind you, Piper doesn’t become a prostitute.  Instead, she sets her sights on her man from the past, the one-who-got-away, who just so happens to have arrived back in Boston.  HUZZAH.

I would be ruining it for you to go into any further detail, but know this.  This book was epically raunchy and knee-meltingly romantic.  Rare is the book that manages to be both ridiculously smutty AND mindbogglingly romantic.  I’m floored, FLOORED I TELL YOU! that none of the other blogs I follow seem to have picked up this book.  This was a FANTASTIC read, one that I’m adding to my personal library ASAP.

When you need book that will intrigue and capture you while making your toes curl and your heart pound, pick up A Courtesan’s Guide to Getting Your Man by Celeste Bradley & Susan Donovan.  You won’t regret it.

Rating: A

Romance: 5/5                     Raunch: 5/5

Follow My Lead by Kate Noble

The proverbs were wrong.  Love would not be patient. Nor kind. It was going to be hard work.

Title: Follow My Lead

Author: Kate Noble

Redonk Nutshell: Winnifred fights to keep her independence and establish her credibility as a historian, inadvertently entrancing a Duke along with her on the journey

Official Synopsis: Jason Cummings, Duke of Rayne is feeling the weight of his responsibilities – one of which is to get married.  Being the most sought after bachelor in London can be trying,  so who can blame him if he seeks refuge from the voracious hordes of young debutantes at the decidedly female-free Historical Society?  Female-free, that is, until Winnifred Crane marches up to the door, demanding entrance. Despite her prowess as a historian, Winn is denied membership the Society.  So she daringly offers an unusual bargain: if she can prove the authenticity of a certain painting, she’ll be granted recognition, fame, and respect.  But to do that, she must go abroad. And to go abroad, she must have an escort, even a stubbornly unwilling one…Jason has no desire to accompany Winn on her adventure across Europe, but even he is not immune to Winn’s passion for her profession. As the journey proves more difficult than planned, they must work together to stay one step ahead of their rivals…. and the closer they get to the proof Winn seeks, the closer she and Jason become.  But as their adventure turns dangerous, can Jason keep this headstrong bluestocking safe?  And what will become of their growing bond when the adventure ends?

I picked up this book because several bloggers I follow read and raved about it.  I’ve read one other work by Noble (Revealed), and it didn’t really do it for me.  I don’t recall exactly why except to say that it seemed to drag for me and wasn’t terribly engaging.  I’m not one to put off an author, however, because of one subjective dud. So I put this on hold at my library, and I gleefully picked it up a few weeks later.

Follow My Lead is the story of Jason Cummings, a reasonable young man and new Duke, who is beginning to consider the prospect of matrimony and sets himself upon the London scene.  And is ambushed.  He doesn’t meet our heroine during a ball or soiree, but instead outside the Historical Society, where she inadvertently accosts him.  Intrigued, Jason helps Winnifred gain entrance into the society and hears her tale claiming to be a reknowned, but anonymous, historical writer.  No one believes her, of course, but she sets forth to prove herself.  Jason is volunteered to see her off on her journey, chaperoning her and her friends to Dover where they’re to meet their ship taking them to their first destination to gather her evidence.  Things take a turn, however, when Jason sees Winnifred boarding a different ship altogether and he chases after her.

Follow My Lead is perfection as a romance novel.  Our two characters are completely normal – no secret pasts, no brooding hearts, no dashing visages or anything of the like.  They are two intelligent, independent souls who happen to collide and bond.  Winnifred is confident and self-assured.  Oh, and brilliant.  She’s something of a bluestocking, but she shrugs it off and wears it proudly without being cut off from the “real” world.  Jason is comfortable in his skin, and though he can be a bit cocky of himself at times, he’s quick to admit his mistakes and listen to others.  Their chemistry is wonderful.  They manage to make a great team, crossing the continent in one mishap after another in effort to gather Winn’s supporting evidence to her shocking thesis.  Their relationship naturally progresses as their journey continues, and watching it evolve and grow is nothing short of splendid.

An incredibly well-rounded read, Follow My Lead is definitely going on my “favorites” bookshelf.

Rating: A

Romance: 5/5   Raunch: 3/5